A lucid answer to What makes a good question? quoted French philosopher Gilles Deleuze to the effect that a great thinker effectively lives her whole life within the boundaries of a single, great question.

This reminded me of a similar statement in an 2010 interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, where he insists that in his books (on problems of randomness, probability and uncertainty) he is always elaborating on one idea, that it takes maybe 30, 40, or 50 years to get and elaborate on only one such idea, and that this may occur late in life. In Taleb's books the same idea makes appearances e.g. in relation to different applications. (In the latest iteration it is called antifragility, an earlier term was convexity.)

Regarding the Deleuze quote (or summary) I am currently more interested in the part where he refers to boundaries of single, great questions, less so in dramatization and 'actualization' of the question. (The usual prejudices surrounding contemporary French philosophy may play a role here :) So with that, e.g. which article or book by Deleuze should I consult?

  • My memory is imperfect, and I will try to track it down; I suspect it's in Difference and Repetition, though it might be in What is Philosophy?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 10, 2012 at 15:06
  • VG, thank you. BTW, I would also be interested in the provenance of this fine illustration, if you don't mind. Re-thx in advance ...
    – Drux
    Dec 10, 2012 at 15:45
  • So that's a basic aerodynamic diagram of avian flight; I'm not sure where it was originally found, though similar images suggests this as a likely candidate: secretofflight.wordpress.com/birds
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 10, 2012 at 16:00
  • Ah, it's from a 1963 article. Thank you.
    – Drux
    Dec 10, 2012 at 16:50
  • This is definitely a paraphrase, by the way.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 10, 2012 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


I'm now thinking this may be part of some commentary on Bergson's remark that "a philosopher worthy of the name has never said more than a single thing: and even then it is something he has tried to say, rather than actually said".

  • Great quote good one!! Jun 20, 2013 at 3:09

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